EWTN Catholic Q&A
Santuary Candle
Question from Margie Pearson on 11-17-2007:

We keep a candle burning beside the tabernacle in our church. It has been the practice here to let the candle go out before lighting another one--in most cases this happens during the night.

I have heard this is NOT permissable--that the candle should be a perpetual light for Jesus being present in the tabernacle. I have also heard if it does go out the priest is required to spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in reparation for this violation. Please let me know if any or all of this is true according to the Church. Thank You, Margie

Answer by Fr. Jay Toborowsky on 11-23-2007:

Canon Law is specific that a sanctuary candle should burn near a Tabernacle to show the faithful that the Eucharist is reserved there. But there is no specific rule which assigns a "penalty" (though spending an hour with the Lord in the Sacrament is hardly a penalty), should the candle burn out. Some parishes do change the candle when the wax gets low and the candle might burn out soon. Others, especially the parishes which allow parishioners to make a monetary offering for the candle so that it burns for a particular prayer intention, let the candle burn out before lighting another one. The bottom line is that the candle should never be intentionally left unlit except for Good Friday when the Tabernacle is empty. If the priest or a sacristan discovers that the candle has burnt out (or perhaps the wick has blown out for some reason), it should be relit.

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